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Paul A. Samuelson

  • Originally published 08/12/2014

    Historical Revision and the alleged “myth” of an exploitable Phillips Curve

    Liberty and Power

    The history of thought is an inherently tricky evidentiary exercise, as it typically involves a need to discern intention from written words left by the subjects in question. Its better practitioners attempt to understand the parameters of a particular decision or argument by weighing the available evidence around it and interpreting it in light of the context in which it was made. Typically implicit is a willingness to follow that evidence where it leads, even when the implication is unexpected or, in cases involving thinkers of prominence, an unwelcome mark on their reputation. But when the historical enterprise itself begins with an act of simply casting about for bullet points to get around a past figure’s shortcomings, the whole enterprise quickly devolves into counter-historical territory – into exercises in exonerative history that attempt to parse a past figure away from something embarrassing, or something that simply “went wrong” in ways that defied his intentions or expectations. Such seems to be the case with a relatively new and unusual approach to the contributions of economist Paul A. Samuelson as they pertain to the Phillips Curve.